Before I talk about my recent gardening adventures, let's review how Bokashi composting works.
Food scraps, including meat and acidic foods (restricted from conventional composting), are mixed with Bokashi "effective microbes" in an anaerobic environment. After a few weeks of fermenting, or pickling, the mixture is buried in soil, where it breaks down further.
Why aren't the food scraps simply buried in the ground in the first place? What is the purpose of pickling them first?
Remember, when food scraps, yard waste, and other organic matter are sent to the landfill, they naturally become buried under other trash. In these anaerobic conditions, the organic waste putrefies and releases methane. In contrast, with conventional composting, oxygen is a necessary ingredient for encouraging "healthy" decomposition by beneficial organisms.
One Bokashi EM retailer describes the process of Bokashi composting this way (emphases added):
"Bokashi will ferment the food waste, preventing it from rotting, and therefore eliminate odor and reduce the attraction to flies...The fermentation results in the breaking of lignin (fibers) in the food waste allowing the waste to break down within two weeks after being buried in the ground or incorporated into an existing compost pile...The fermentation is a stabilizing or preserving method during which vitamins, amino acids and antioxidants are increased, which will then become excellent nutrient sources for plants."
The way I interpret it, pickling has two main benefits:
- It modifies items such as meat into a form that favors decomposition by "beneficial" microorganisms, rather than attracting "pests" or promoting rotting
- The fermentation accelerates the composting process, which in conventional aerobic composting can take many months
I am not a professional specialist on composting, so any statements I've made about the mechanisms for composting are simply opinions based on information I've gathered. I haven't done any scientific research on composting myself, so the above are my interpretations of how Bokashi works its magic.